"Stop the steal" was the rallying cry for Trump and the insurgents who stormed the capitol on January 6. The allegation that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen was based on lies about everything from dead people voting to conspiracy theories about voting machines designed by deceased foreign leaders. Of course, all of those allegations proved to be ridiculous and collapsed in the light of day.
Not to be deterred, Mollie Hemingway tried a different approach. Rather than say that the election was stolen, she wrote a book claiming that it had been "rigged." One of the things she highlighted was a specific action taken by the one man who has been the target of derision by both the left and the right - Mark Zuckerberg. Perhaps that is why this story hasn't garnered much (if any) attention in mainstream media.
Here's how Hemingway described her allegation about Zuckerberg in a recent article at The Federalist.
Mark Zuckerberg spent $419 million to finance the private takeover of government election offices — primarily focused on the blue areas of swing states — to enable Democrats to run their Get Out The Vote operations from government offices.
By now we've all learned that an allegation like that from right wingers requires a fact check. Here's what I found: Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, gave over $350 million to the nonprofit organization Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL). Apparently they also donated funds to The Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR), but it's not clear how much.
On their website, CTCL says that they "connect Americans with the information they need to become and remain civically engaged, and ensure that our elections are more professional, inclusive, and secure." Heading in to November 2020, local election offices were dealing with the pandemic, a surge of mail-in ballots, chaos about changing state election laws, and a flood of misinformation. They obviously didn't have the resources to handle all of that. CTCL developed a grant program to address the situation. The Zuckerberg's were donors to that program.
Contrary to what Hemingway alleges, American Public Media studied the CTCL grant program and titled their report "How private money helped save the election."
In the weeks since the election, allies of President Trump have included the Center for Tech and Civic Life grants in their voter fraud conspiracy theories. They have challenged the legality and neutrality of the grants, claiming that the funding was aimed at boosting Democratic turnout. But an APM Reports analysis of voter registration and voter turnout in three of the five key swing states shows the grant funding had no clear impact on who turned out to vote. Turnout increased across the country from 2016. The APM Reports analysis found that counties in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona that received grants didn’t have consistently higher turnout rates than those that didn’t receive money.
In highlighting stories about how local election offices used the funding, a story from my home state of Minnesota stood out.
Minneapolis Elections Director Grace Wachlarowicz had a problem on her hands in August. She had just wrapped up the August primary and realized she needed more workers to process the huge number of ballots sure to arrive in the November election. But to do that, the department needed more space.
“My facility could not handle the number of staff that I needed in order to process these absentee ballots,” she said. “We worked day and night because I couldn’t hire more people, because I didn’t have any space to safely have them work on it.”
The city spent $300,000 of its $2.3 million grant from the center to rent 70,000 square feet in the Minneapolis Convention Center. Without the funding, the city would have been forced to process and count the ballots in multiple locations, which could have caused chain-of-custody issues along with slowing down the counting of ballots.
In addition to the APM analysis, CTCL has been named in more than a dozen law suits. Every judge — conservative, liberal, and two Republican-appointed Supreme Court Justices — rejected the claims. Going directly to Hemingway's assertion, here's what a federal district court in Pennsylvania found:
CTCL provides grant funds to any local election office that applies, and the final grant is calculated using nonpartisan criteria. CTCL reports that over 1,100 local election administrators across the country have applied for CTCL grants, including eighteen counties within Pennsylvania, as well as the Pennsylvania Department of State. Of these eighteen counties, eleven voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, and five did so by more than a two-to-one margin.A judge in Colorado issued a strongly-worded opinion calling the allegations a conspiracy theory. So much for Hemingway's take on all of this.
The Election Infrastructure Initiative is a collaborative effort, bringing together election officials, nonprofits, counties, cities, and states who believe that election infrastructure is some of our nation’s most critical and should be funded appropriately. We’re calling on Congress to invest $20 billion at the state and local level to meet the need for securing and modernizing election infrastructure over the next decade.
The Freedom to Vote Act, which is currently being filibustered by Republicans, contains $3.5 billion for states to shore up election security. If Mollie Hemingway is really concerned about private funding of election offices, you'd think she'd be on board with that one. But obviously she's not. She'd rather fear-monger about Zuckerberg and complain about a rigged election than actually support efforts to fix the problem.